Since the Reagan war on Unions and workers, democracy in the workplace has declined from around one third of ALL American Jobs to less than seven percent today. Many American employers take full advantage of this by hiring their workers at a minimum wage that has the purchasing power of about one third of what my first job did back in the 1960’s era when Unions were strong and growing. In fact, a Republican President of the United States (POTUS) bragged in 1956 about how they had been successful in increasing Union shops in America. Unions tend to lift all wage earners thereby creating a minimum wage for me in my first job equivalent to about $22 an hour today after being adjusted for inflation.
As the Oligarchs have decimated the Unions, a race to the bottom has been in full swing now for at least 30 years. As we have evolved from a country with a liberal middle class to one where the corporations have bought and paid for most of our representatives we resemble the fascists of old.
The infamous dictator who coined the term “fascism” was none other than Mussolini. As the leader of the National Fascist Party, he ruled the country as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943—constitutionally until 1925, when he dropped all pretense of democracy and set up a legal dictatorship. In this fascist world, ALL elected parliament members were dismissed and replaced by the corporate masters of the time. Sound familiar?
Today our Federal Government exists through a legalized system of bribery, politicians receive bribes from wealthy donors in return for writing the laws to their liking, and then those politicians are rewarded with high paying jobs when they retire or lose an election. Large majorities of Americans oppose much of the legislation passed by Congress and their State Governments.
For example, in the recent attempt by the Republican dominated Congress to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) also known as Obamacare and throw tens of millions off any care what so ever, 64% of Americans opposed the legislation, yet it almost passed! A majority of members of the Republicans’ own party opposed the bill labeled repeal and replace but in actuality, a stealth tax cut bill for the rich.
While we do not have the same exact situation as the Italians did back in 1922, our current POTUS had filled his cabinet with multi-millionaires and billionaire’s! None of them were ever workers, almost all of them like POTUS, born into economic royalty and permanent members of the American Oligarchy. Of course, they who have bought much of Congress want laws to enhance their personal wealth and well-being. Of course, they are uncomfortable paying an additional 3.6% on their “unearned” income to finance the PPACA.
Right now, the Denver Metro Retiree Chapter is fighting hard to overcome the FIVE HUNDRED billion dollars just stolen from Medicare (funds ALL came from payroll checks and benefits have been pre-paid by those 65 or older) and the Trillion dollars just stolen from Medicaid by the Republican budget passed by both houses in Congress. Medicaid pays well over half of all long-term care in “Nursing Homes” and other assisted living arrangements for the elderly. What will these vulnerable people do now? What will their children do to compensate for this loss of funding?
Now we face the Republican tax cut plan that will rob many more trillions from retirees, hungry children, the sick and the disabled. As I write, it is estimated the tax cut for mostly the top 1% of Americans will add over Five trillion dollars to the debt and deficits. 40% of these tax cuts by the fascists will go to FOREIGN investors who now own over one seventh of all property in the United States due to our bludgeoning trade deficits. Sending our good union jobs overseas has dire economic consequences. Please do not believe for even a minute this so-called tax cut will benefit you. It is designed for just one purpose and that is to turn over all political power to the fascists of the American Oligarchy. It is designed to redistribute the few crumbs left for the least among us up to the economic royalists. They must have it all. Nothing will ever be enough for these folks.
Please call your Congressional representatives often to express your opposition to taking from you to give to those who simply do not need any more. If you are thinking this would be a waste of your time remember that there are a few hundred American’s buying congress while there are hundreds of millions of us who only need to raise our voices to turn the tide.
From the perspective on a Retiree Chapter President, things have gone horribly for retired workers since January of 2017. On the bright side, we fought hard and kept the RepubliCON’s 60th attempt to repeal the PPACA and Medicaid, as we know it, from passing in the Senate. Certainly Retirees and Postal workers will be literally hurt by the scuttling of the clean water rules (executive order [EO] 02/18/17) substantially increasing the mercury and arsenic in our drinking and bathing water. Elimination of the clean power plan that would reduce the 50,000 deaths annually from polluters (EO; 03/28/17). Anyone else who eats wild Alaskan Salmon to avoid the mercury and other pollutants in most fish will lose that under the Trump America-First Offshore Energy Strategy (EO, 04/28/17). "Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty" and "Establishment of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity" are both Con’s from the Republicon’s to make it harder for retirees to vote and easier for churches to buy elections (EO’s, April and July 2017). The commission has already closed down because they just could not find anyone committing voter fraud except the handful of Trump supporters who voted twice in 2016. “Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement’s Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources” puts more military weapons of war on our streets to suppress protests that affects all of us (EO; 08/28/17). “Revocation of Executive Order Creating Labor-Management Forums” directly negatively affects workers and could contravene Union contracts requiring such forums. (EO; 09/29/17)
Last December, under a new rule proposed by the Trump Department of Labor, restaurants can take servers' tips and "pool" them in order to disperse some to dishwashers, bussers, etc.: but it does not actually require them to do so, and, instead, allows employers to pocket some or all of the wait-staff's tips.
On Dec. 15, 2017, the Trump National labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced in PCC Structurals Inc. that it would expressly overrule its own precedent form their 2011 decision in Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center of Mobile. In Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB had replaced these factors and created a presumption that favored the unit description submitted by the union absent an “overwhelming community of interest” with other excluded employees. One day earlier, in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd., the Trump NLRB overruled its 2015 Browning-Ferris decision on joint employer status and returned to the joint employer standard the NLRB applied for decades prior to that decision. In Bowning-Ferris, the Obama NLRB had made it easier for unions to bargain with joint employers regarding hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction. On Dec. 14, 2017, the Trump NLRB discarded the Lutheran Heritage Village-Livonia standard for determining whether facially neutral work rules might violate the National Labor Relations Act if “employees would reasonably construe the language to prohibit Section 7 activity.” These three changes drastically hurt workers and especially UNION workers.
From the perspective of a person who loves freedom, equality and the American Way the insane administration has entered in all-out war against such values. Revocation of Federal Contracting Executive Orders in March of 2017 to allow discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation or identity, The nomination of Mick Mulvaney to both the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a disaster. His first act at CFPB was to kill the rule that would have required your retirement planner to work in your best interests instead of theirs! In addition, his second act was to request ZERO dollars for the CFPB budget wiping out protections from the vulture banksters for workers and retirees. OPM now takes twice as long to process requests from APWU members and retirees.
This list goes on and on but I would be remiss leaving out the latest, greatest RepubliCon tax scam. Yes, Union Workers and many APWU retirees WILL see a modest tax cut at least temporarily. For example, the single largest expenditure for retirees is sickness care what with lifesaving m3dications alone inflating 5000% in many cases. On schedule A, itemized deductions, they can now deduct those out of pocket expenses above 7.5% of their AGI or line 38 of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form 1040 for the next two years and then that goes UP TO 10% until completely phased out by 2027. All of you getting the pittance of tax relief will see your tax cut expire completely by 2027 and most of you will have any cut consumed by your contractual COLA pay increases within a few years. Meantime, one set of brothers, David and Charles Koch will see an annual tax cut of around $1,200,000,000!
The dire consequences of such con jobs is that negotiations will be much more challenging for APWU and now the RepubliCON’s are planning cuts to Medicare and Social Security (Pre-paid out of every pay check for decades) after they demolish the PPACA and Medicaid. Many APWU members are able to get Medicaid to pay for their parents or grandparents stays in assisted living homes, as do some of our current retirees. Either these elderly will be thrown out into the street or the costs to stay in the facility will explode when Medicaid doesn’t pick up over half the tab as they do now.
Meantime, for those of you duped by the “deficit” and debt” scams it is no surprise that the Republicon’s usually double or triple the debt when they control power while screaming about it when democratic party members control the power. For anyone interested in the facts do a search on Jude Wanniski and the “Two Santa Claus” scam the RepubliCON’s have been peddling since Ronnie Raygun took office. This administration and the 115th Congress have manufactured over a trillion more dollars in deficits with the tax scam and another trillion dollars to manufacturer MORE THERMO-NUCLEAR warheads!
My writings have continuously focused on the fact that elections have consequences. Please avoid being part of the 100,000,000 American’s who felt their vote didn’t count in 2016 and plan on voting November 6th for candidates that support you, your family, your Union, USPS and retirees. Thanks!
Active or Retiree? Play an Important Role in 2018!
(This article first appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy
As we go into the New Year, I’d like to remind our members how important our retirees are to our future. Our country has become a war zone and we must unite as strong activists, whether you are a retiree or an active postal worker. We can choose to participate, or we can sit back comfortably in our homes, guaranteed to lose our rights and our livelihoods.
Local and state organizations need to look to our retirees as a vital part of our union. They should share resources with retirees and encourage more chapters to be formed. Retirees are our family and are our activist backbone, who fought to preserve the worker protections we have today. We are all in this battle together.
Built the Union
Today’s retirees helped build the American Postal Workers Union. During the 1970s and 1980s, they were staunch defenders of the union, many taking part in the Great Postal Strike of 1970. Thousands served as both negotiators and stewards, representing workers on the job and securing the benefits we have today.
As young postal workers, our retirees were not willing to be fired at will, segregated by color, or denied safety and health provisions, wage increases and collective bargaining rights. As young workers, many fought in the Vietnam War, marched for the equal rights amendment, supported better worker protections and became active in their unions. Gains become a reality when workers participate.
Today, we see a government that is actively cutting workers’ rights with a vengeance. Those brave young workers, who are now retirees, are also affected by the proposed cuts, especially to health care and retirement benefits.
Wealth of Knowledge and Experience
There is a place in every local for retirees. They are great mentors and can help provide training and give valuable advice to workers. There are many local officers who are retired or will be retiring soon, and they would like to see new workers step up into union leadership positions.
Retirees can also help with the contract campaign and anti-consolidation activities, as well as build relationships with elected officials. They can reach other organizations that can become part of A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service. One of the primary reasons the Stop Staplescampaign was so successful was because of the countless hours worked by dedicated retirees across the country.
Only when we stand and act together in solidarity, can we grow. We must fight to keep the Postal Service vibrant and serving our community with equal access to affordable, prompt, postal services.
We must protect our rights as workers. We are at a serious place in history and every member must get involved now. We cannot win this battle without large numbers of people acting together.
Let’s make 2018 the year that all postal workers, retirees and our communities come together, Fighting Today for a Better Tomorrow.
The 2018 CSRS retiree COLA is based on the third quarter (July, August, September) average CPI-W index (1982-84=100) in 2017 over the 2016 third quarter average. 2018 CSRS COLA increase effective with January 2018 annuity payments will be 2.0%?.
For FERS Retirees:
The 2018 FERS retiree COLA is based on the third quarter (July, August, September) average CPI-W index (1982-84=100) in 2017 over the 2016 third quarter average. However, if the CPI-W quarterly average increases 3% or more, they subtract 1%. A 5% increase in the quarterly CPI-W average results in a 4% adjustment. If the quarterly average increases from 2% to 3%, benefits increase by 2%. A CPI-W quarterly average increase of 2% or less will increase benefits by the change in the CPI-W quarterly average.The 2018 FERS COLA increase effective with January 2018 annuity payments will be 2.0%.
For Social Security Recipients:
The 2018 Social Security COLA is based on the third quarter (July, August, September) average CPI-W index (1982-84=100) in 2017 over the 2016 third quarter average. The 2018 Social Security COLA increase effective with January 2018 annuity payments will be 2.0%.?
It all started with a fantastic catered dinner sponsored by the Denver Metro Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union (DMAL,APWU). The elected Director of Human Resources at the time, Phil Desautels, did much of the work behind the scenes with support from the DMAL President, John Ancona and the Executive Board. Everyone joining in on the festivities that evening were interested in establishing a Retiree Chapter chartered by APWU. A chairperson was nominated and elected at the dinner to start the certification and application process for a DMAL Retiree Chapter.
You too can form a retiree chapter. The first step is a several page instruction sheet from the APWU Director of the Retirees. A constitution and bylaws for your chapter must be written up and presented to a meeting of retirees paying the $36 a year, for ratification.
The APWU “rebates” about 40% of your $3 each month to the chartered chapter. Do the math and see that there are funds to do informational mailings and to send delegates to retiree conferences. Your leadership likely will receive no compensation, as all work with every chapter on APWU’s books is voluntary.
Under the APWU national constitution, the chapter’s mission is political action to contact and vote for local, state and federal representatives who share your concerns as retirees in America. To help those who support our pensions, our social security, our Medicare and other health care access, our environment and our cost of living increases. You can band together to admonish those who would make your lives harder and more uncomfortable that retirees are a force and are engaged in the political process.
After all, it is only through working together in an organized fashion that we have any chance of the golden years we worked for, prepaid and deserve. The forces of darkness are constantly looking for ways to take from us so that they can have even more. The good news is that there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of us and only a few hundred of them. Of course, also in the good news category is that active retirees can move mountains in the political arena.
Meantime, until you decide to and work towards forming your own APWU chartered retiree chapter, ANY retired APWU member in Colorado paying the three bucks a month or $36 annually can join the Denver Metro Retiree Chapter (DMRC). Up here in Leadville, my neighbor across the street who worked at the Vail Post Office is a full member of the DMRC. Simply by providing your CSA# to the office manager at the Denver Metro Area Local (DMAL) of the APWU you can enroll as a retiree member!
If you retired from a different local that has no chapter yet, simply write a letter to Nancy Olumekor, APWU Retirees Director, stating you wish to be designated as a DMRC member and you can join us in our work to save our benefits and pay. We also need your help to repeal legislation like the Windfall Elimination Provision that robs some of our members of their full social security benefits.
Contacts to join the ONLY retiree chapter in Colorado:
Scott Morrow, President; 303 915 8012
(please leave a message with your name, number and retiree status)
(This article first appeared in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Retirees Director Nancy Olumekor
The USPS reports that each year postal employees throw away almost $200 million in retirement benefit matching funds by failing to save in their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
It is never too early or too late to start planning for retirement. You need to be clear about what you want your “golden years” to look like.
If you are a Federal Employee Retirement System employee, by putting just five percent of your income into your TSP, the Postal Service will match the amount you contribute with an additional five percent. That means you’ll have twice as much going into your TSP as you originally contributed. Plus, you could benefit from lower taxes on your current income. Can’t afford five percent? Every dollar makes a difference.
Investing in the TSP is easy. It is made up of five core funds that you can mix and match. Or, if you aren’t sure which funds to choose, you can invest in a Lifecycle fund that is professionally designed based on when you’ll need your money.
An employee earning $50,000 per year who contributes five percent to their TSP – about $95 per paycheck – and earns an average annual rate of return of six percent, can potentially have a TSP account worth nearly $420,000 after 30 years.
Time is your biggest ally when it comes to the growth of your TSP account, so starting early and saving consistently can make a tremendous difference.
If you need to, go smaller and deposit $20 a week, which is only approximately $1,000 out of your paycheck each year.
You can make or change TSP contributions at any time. For more information on TSP and your investment options, visit https://liteblue.usps.gov/tsp.
Consistent and early savings can be the difference between a comfortable retirement and a difficult one. It is never too early or too late to save.
General enrollment in Medicare is open from Jan. 1 through March 31, but don’t confuse the general enrollment period with your eligibility enrollment period: You are eligible to enroll in Medicare three months before you turn 65, the month of your 65th birthday, and three months after the month you turn 65.
You will be penalized if you enroll outside of your eligibility period and your options to enroll will be limited.
If you miss your eligibility window, you may sign up only during the general enrollment period at the beginning of the year, with few exceptions. And, if Social Security records reflect that you have enrolled late, you will be required to pay a penalty in addition to the monthly premium. The penalty for enrolling late is 10 percent for each year you delay enrollment in Medicare Part B.
For most USPS retirees, the premium for Medicare Part B for 2015 is $104.90. Medicare B covers medically-necessary services from doctors and other health care providers, ambulance services, outpatient care, home health care, and some preventative services. For a complete list of covered services, visit www.Medicare.gov.
Medicare Part A covers hospitalization and it’s free because you paid for it while you worked for the Postal Service. You are eligible for Medicare Part A if you are over 65, under 65 with certain disabilities, or currently receiving Social Security benefits. If you are covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) you will not be penalized if you sign-up for Medicare Part A after age 65.
The questions asked most frequently about Medicare are:
How do I enroll? - You can sign up for Medicare by visiting your local Social Security office or by completing an online application at www.socialsecurity.gov. You may also call to request an appointment to enroll by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213; TTY/TDD: 1-877-486-2048.
How do I make the payment for Medicare Part B? - There is a range of options for paying Medicare premiums. You may pay by automatic bill payment through your bank account (also known as Medicare Easy Pay), by check, or the payments may be withheld from your Social Security or annuity benefit. Be clear with Social Security on the payment method you select to avoid a delay in processing your first payments.
Should I keep myFederal Employee Health Benefits Plan and enroll in Medicare Parts A and B as well? - That’s a personal decision; when weighing your options, you should consider your usage of medical services, your ability to pay, and the penalty for enrolling late in Medicare Part B. When you retain your FEHB Plan and enroll in Medicare A and B, Medicare will be your primary payer and your FEHB Plan will cover most of the difference. APWU retirees who are in the APWU Health Plan have expressed appreciation for having both Medicare and our health plan. If you have a FEHB plan other than APWU, you should contact your FEHB plan for advice.
When does Medicare take effect? The date coverage begins depends on when you enrolled. If you enrolled during your 65th birthday enrollment period, coverage starts the first day of your birth month, unless your birthday is on the first day of the month; if your birthday is on the first day of the month, the coverage starts on the prior month. If you enrolled the month after your 65th, there is a delay of one month for each month you delay in getting coverage after turning 65. For example, if you wait one month after your birth month to sign up, coverage will start two months after you sign up. Finally, if you sign up during the general enrollment period, coverage starts on July 1 of that year.
For more information about Medicare, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.Medicare.gov.
The APWU Retirees Department is the voice of retired APWU members — within the union and on Capitol Hill.
Retirees helped build the union as we fought for — and won — better wages, improved benefits, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Now, the union fights for retirees as Congress makes budget and policy decisions that affect our pensions and healthcare coverage, and that impact our lives in a profound way. The Retirees Department seeks to organize retired APWU members to join in these struggles.
The department also provides members with opportunities to see old friends — and make new ones— by participating in the activities of APWU Retiree Chapters and other union events.
The APWU Retirees Department was established in 1992 by delegates to the union’s 11th Biennial National Convention. Our goal was to bring retirees back into the union family while advancing the objectives of retired and active union members. The creation of the department required the passage of an amendment to the APWU Constitution and Bylaws, approved by more than two-thirds of voting delegates.
At subsequent conventions, delegates amended the constitution to strengthen the voice of retirees in union affairs, voting to allow retirees to elect five regional Retirees National Convention Delegates; to improve funding of retiree chapters, and to allow members of the APWU Retirees Department to elect the department director, beginning with the 2007 election of national officers.
Currently, there are more than 80,000 APWU Retirees Department members, 39local Retiree chapters, and four state chapters.